Posted by: Anthony Drewery | March 2, 2006

SATA RAID & Windows XP

I have an MSI RX480M2-IL motherboard in my home PC which supports serial ATA RAID. I had a single 160GB SATA drive with the SATA controller running in IDE mode and would backup my important files to an external drive whenever I remembered.

With the growing number of photos, videos and important documents on my PC, and plunging hardware prices I thought it was time I made use of a mirrored RAID set. I purchased a pair of 250GB SATA drives and got cracking.

The motherboard came with an SATA RAID driver but there was a catch – it was on floppy disk and needed to be installed during the XP installation process. I don’t have a floppy drive and I certainly didn’t want to re-install my PC so I thought through a different approach. I’d heard that XP SP2 recognises most SATA controllers so this is what I did:

First I used Ghost to image my 160GB disk to one of the 250GB disks. This way if I completely messed things up I could just plug the 160GB disk back in.

Next I changed the SATA controller settings in the BIOS to RAID and booted with both 250GB disks connected.

I was given an option during the POST to configure RAID so I created a mirror pair with my two disks. It let me choose the primary (the one I had imaged my XP installation to) and a secondary. I was given the option of doing the rebuild online or offline so I chose online.

Windows took about 10 minutes to boot but once it was up performance seemed ok. However, I noticed that both disks were showing Disk Manager and Explorer so I decided to reboot and do the rebuild offline.

With the rebuild complete Windows still took 10 minutes to startup. Both drives were still visible and contained similar data. However, I added a file to the primary and it wasn’t created on the secondary. I decided I needed the MSI SATA driver.

After downloading the driver from the MSI site I needed to find somewhere to install it. I couldn’t see any hard drive controllers in Device Manager so I chose the option to show hidden devices. Sure enough there was now a section for drive controllers and under it two entries for IDE/SATA Controllers. I updated these with the MSI driver and rebooted. The reboot only took a minute and once loaded Windows XP only saw the mirrored set as a single drive.

I need to give the PC a thorough test but the boot time is quick and performance seems good. Although I’ll still periodically backup to DVD or external drive I don’t have to worry about a single drive failure taking my data with it.

[tags]SATA,RAID,Windows, XP[/tags]

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